So I made a few simple text adventure games for Windows Store and Windows Phone (see this post) and now I want to make some dead presidents, moolah, fat stacks, greenbacks, etc. off my hard work. As someone who lives in a country that has more names for money than Eskimos have words for snow, I, being a patriot,  sometimes think about how I can make more cash. Making dough off of some product that "sits" on a virtual store (that I don't tend) and direct-deposits non-virtual currency into my bank account seems like it's worth a shot.

And so I'm going to blab a bit about my quest to make money on Wizard's Choice. If you want to hear a story about how someone got rich making high-end games on Windows Store, this is not it, rather, if you want to hear about someone who makes enough for a decent car payment from a pathetic piece of engineering, then this is where you want to be.

I ship on Windows Phone and Windows Store and use a different business model for each. I give away my phone version for free, but have ads. For my Windows Store version, I give away the first text adventure of the series and charge for the other five volumes. I call the freebie + charge for sequels my "loss leader" business model. I make about $20/day or $600/month off of the two platforms combined, with about $12/$8 split between ads and paid respectively.

Wizard's Choice is a text adventure (like Choose Your Own Adventure) and because of this, it will never get featured on any store or become a big sensation. Judging by it's reviews, it's just a fun and simple game. Because of reasons I go into in this post, the phone version gets healthy downloads (800k+ over it's lifetime), but it does not have a lot of re-playability and so someone will typically play through it once and not play it again. This is why large downloads have translated into some money from ads, but not a lot. Microsoft Ads, the ads I use, are about ad impressions and unless you're app is "sticky" which means that your customers keep coming back to use it over a significant period of time, it's hard to make the big bucks in ads. For example, if instead I had created a solitaire card game that I expected people to habitually play for weeks, months, or years on end, ads would likely be perfect.

This lack of stickiness of my game is why I chose to use a paid monetization scheme for Wizard's Choice on Windows Store to see the difference. Because my Windows Store version is new and hasn't built up much momentum yet, it does not get nearly the downloads the Windows Phone version gets and yet it makes me almost as much money. This isn't surprising since the business model fits the "one-time-through" game. Here is the value proposition:

"Here is a free Volume 1. Did you have fun? OK, there's five more that are at least as much fun, but you have to pay for each of them. But hey, you know what you're getting for your $1.49 and you know that's worth as much as a soft-drink, right?"

For the Windows Store version I recently used in-app-purchase to unlock the last 3 volumes instead of requiring customers to go on the Store and buy them separately. I'm not sure why, but this just didn't work. I would get on average $2/day, way under the current $8/day. I'm not sure if people thought I might be spoofing them when they get to the end of chapter 3 and suddenly are being asked for their credit card (if they haven't purchased before), or whether I just offered too long of a trial before asking for money. Maybe I should have hit them up after volume 1 instead of volume 3? Anyway, I'm using loss-leader now. Here's a picture that shows the revenue of the different volumes over about a month. I highlight the free one that used in-app purchasing which I now have pulled. Despite the 88k+ downloads, it only made $768 over about 7 months of time. So by splitting them up and giving away the first one, I'm making 2 or 3 times more than what I was doing with the free, in-app-purchase style.

 

I even broke the cardinal rule of offering a trial version of the paid sequels. I did this in part out of laziness, and part because I expected my free volume 1 to convince customers to take a chance without a trial. Then, at least I know every download is a paid download.

A few experiments I have yet to do:

- Offer a trial version of the sequels and see if that boosts revenue.
- Charge more for them. Thanks to the freebie, maybe those customers willing to go out and get the sequel won't be stopped by another buck or two?

I'm not gonna lie, it's not easy making money off of games, at least not for me. And this isn't a Windows Store issue, this goes for any platform. I have friends (yes, I call them friends) that have created Android apps, iOS apps, and even Blackberry games and it's not easy for them, either. The more popular the platform, the more competition you're going to face in the store so regardless of where you're shipping, there's going to be tradeoffs. Personally, I'm looking forward to Windows Blue and the likely store improvements on the way and I'm optimistic that my income will grow.